The Silly Killers are one of early 80s Seattle punk bands that would probably be forgotten years ago if it wasn’t for the fact that former Guns N’Roses’ Michael “Duff” McKagen was a member for a short time. One has to wonder what rabid metal fans would have felt if Duff had continued playing in a multitude of punk bands before becoming famous in one of the all-time most successful metal bands in history; after all McKagen, from a very young age, was one of the most prolific members of early Seattle punk. Most likely all of his hard work might have been little more than a footnote were it not for relocating from Seattle to Los Angeles-being a footnote is a fate he obviously would not deserve. But in spite of McKagen’s short time with the Silly Killers, they had already become stars in their own right among Seattle’s punk community. The Silly Killers’ reputation in recent years has also has been heightened by new-found interest in their only 7” recording of what’s usually referred to as the Knife Manual EP, and two other hard to find tracks that have only been “officially” released on the excellent 1983 cassette “What Syndrome” put out by local label Deux Ex Machina Records And Tapes in 1983.
Then there’s Slats (born Chris Harvey) founding member of the Silly Killers who died in 2010 after years of being an iconic figure not only in the punk community, but in the city at large. Despite his ongoing addiction and alcoholism Slats made the rounds two and a half decades as a highly visible character in both Seattle’s University District and on Capitol Hill. Some worried about him. Others made bets on how long he would live. Aside from that Slats was a genial, kind and generous person who had simply found himself in the grips of addiction. Some friends have reported that he was clean his last few years, but there’s no doubt he was not sober. You could often find him drinking in one of Seattle’s many musicians’ hangouts-always ready to talk and (what the hell) accept a free drink. However addiction is in no way a character flaw and it’s clear that many were touched by his legacy…friends who had known him for years, and strangers who had only sighted him from afar. He was much more than a … Read more›
The Spectators played fewer than 20 gigs. They performed only 15 songs live. But their reputation as one of the most original and accomplished bands of the early Seattle alternative scene continues to grow into the 21st century. Their first gig was December 8th 1980, the same day John Lennon was gunned down in New York City. It was just like most other nights at Seattle’s legendary Gorilla Room on Second Avenue; a handful of people showed up, and more free beer was drunk up by the bar staff and their under-aged buddies than was ever sold. But that night one of the finest Seattle bands of the era played to the nearly empty club. Over the next few months the band would be regulars at the Gorilla Room and WREX and end up on the stage of Seattle’s Showbox Theater at least twice, as co-headliners, and as openers for The Stranglers. Later, Bob Mould, having played three dates with The Spectators while on the first national tour by Hüsker Dü , called them “the greatest unsigned band in America“. Less than a yearlater The Spectators were gone.
The Spectators combination of surf, metal, jazz and punk predates most alt bands with similar influences by a full decade. They were a power-trio, but one that dealt their deadly blows with intricate and subtle precision rather than blind swings. This was a band that had brains as well as brawn. By using a limited amount ofeffects, guitarist Byron Duff and bass player Stanford “Stan” Filarca created a sound so tightly woven that it was hard totell who was playing lead, where the rhythm was coming from and how they could possibly sound so big and layered at the same time. Add to the mix the powerful, inventive and perfect tempo of drummer Jeff Farrand and it’s hard to think of any finer trio in rock, signed or unsigned, even today.
During their short life The Spectators recorded very little of their output in the studio-about six studio tracks still exist. Unfortunately most of it has been lost or the tapes have degraded so badly they’re practically unlistenable. Fortunately there still are some fairly high quality mono recording caught on a cassette player using a condenser mike! Some of these cassettes and board mixes have been discovered, including this recording of Call It Chaos. One-time Seattle promoter and indie label … Read more›
During the early to mid 1980s The Refuzors were A-list Seattle punk rockers. They were one of the best live bands around. Uncompromising, edgy and raw. They could have been lumped in with alot of hardcore bands from that era but for one thing. The songwriting, mostly by guitarist and vocalist Mike Refuzor set them far ahead of other great hardcore Seattle bands. And they were always unexpectedly fun. The Refuzors started out as a trio, and it’s probably their original line-up or Mike Refuzor (Mike Lambert) Bass and Vocals, Danny Refuzor (Danny Barton) on guitar and Roach Refuzor Dan Bradshaw) on drums that is most memorable. Other incarnations included Ward Refuzor (Ward Nelson) on guitar, Al Dams, Mike Purdon on bass and Renee Refuzor (Renee Vazquez) doing some of the vocals.
The Refuzors were good at creating controversy-but some of it was also the cause of the press. In a revew of the band local rock critic (at the time) printed her views of The Refuzors (and Mike specifically) of being neo-Nazi, white supremecists and fascists. The comments were made in the widely read but now defunct Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Her pronouncement wasn’t based on the lyrics or outward signs of Nazism. The Refuzors never associated themselves with the neo-Nazi or white supremacist movements. Hackett based her opinon on their dress; the all black, all leather uniform that many punks adhered to in the early 1980s. The result of the public accusation led Mike to write one of his best songs, “White Power”. And of course, once more the media went wild. How could any major band write such a song?
The fact is the song’s lyrics make clear that they did NOT support white supremacy. The lyrics start:
People may say things about me.
Some of them things are true, some are lies
With the power of the press you labeled me a Nazi
I bet you can’t even look me in the eyes
Later in the chorus Mike sings;
I never said White Power
I never said White Power to you
I’m sayin’ it now
You put those words in my mouth…
A studio version of the song was included on the near-legendary “Seattle Syndrome” compilation, but it seems as of this writing there are only very poorly recorded live versions of the song available on the internet. Aside from the inclusion on The Seattle Syndrome … Read more›
WREX was established in Belltown, Seattle by Michael Clay, Wes Bradley, and Aaron McKiernan in the early Fall of 1979. The venue, at 2018 First Avenue, was formerly a leather gay bar called Johnny’s Handlebar, located on the ground floor of a former brothel. Johnny’s Handlebar, at the time it closed was said to be the oldest, continuously open gay bar on the West Coast. For the first few months of it’s life WREX remained a typical 70s/80s gay bar, catering to local gay men. The unique décor inside WREX included old car seats in the back, old airplane seats in the side area, and Seattle’s first music video system curated by Ted Ladd. A DJ spun the popular music found in thousands of gay discos around the nation (and in Seattle) which also included a handful of the poppier “new wave” hits that most gay bars also included among their playlists. As the novelty of the new gay bar wore off the gay clientele retreated to many of their previous haunts around town. The Brass Door, Neighbors, The Park Avenue, and a plethora of other LGBT venues that were popping up with regularity. WREX was still viable as a business, but they needed something more to bring in customers. One of the targets WREX had not yet tapped into was the growing popularity of punk in the LGBT community Many who came of age during the punk era rejected the “clone” culture that pervaded the gay scene at the time. Not only that, alot of younger straight adults interested in punk barely regarded a difference between themselves and their queer friends. They all gravitated toward punk as an alternative, so they were all one tribe. It’s not surprising that gays bars were regularly part of the punk scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were always ready to allow punk rock in their midst because it represented the same kind of outsidership, and it’s no wonder so many gay youth were willing to embrace more outré artists that had emerged from gay disco-artists like Sylvester and the iconic Grace Jones.
Seattle’s punk and gay communities have often mingled together, and the subcultural mise-en-scène at WREX was no exception to that general rule. Occasionally, former Johnny’s Handlebar clientele would drop in after WREX’s opening, not yet knowing about the change in management … Read more›